‘I’m Busy’ Isn’t a Badge of Honour

It’s common within Australian business culture for people, when asked the question of ‘How are you going?’, to respond with something along the lines of, ‘I’m really busy’, or ‘flat out’.

This might be a reflexive response to avoid having to provide a more substantive answer, or it may be bluster to hide the fact they are anything but busy. Mostly, I think the response is given in the belief that “busy-ness” implies importance, worth and value. I think this is misguided.

When I hear somebody say they are busy, I tend to interpret it as:

  • I don’t know how to delegate, so I’m doing everything myself.
  • I’m disorganised and can’t structure my days.
  • I’ve failed to prioritise and eliminate extraneous activity.
  • I’ve actually got nothing to do, but I don’t want anybody to find out.

Being busy is not a badge of honour. It’s a cry for help. Either you’ve got too much going on, or not nearly enough. Either way, there’s going to be a lack of focus on the projects and activities that really matter, and deliver true value.

Customers don’t pay for busy-ness; they pay for value provided. A customer doesn’t care how much work went into something; they care if it solves their problem.

If you find yourself busy all the time, don’t accept it, and don’t feel good about it. Identify how to eliminate, automate or simplify the tasks that are eating away your days. Gain back some time that can be put to better use, such as long-term planning, blue-sky thinking, or relaxing by the pool.

People are not machines. Our lives should be balanced. Sacrificing some busy time for a chance to pursue enjoyment, self-development, or diversification is a trade worth making. If you’re not busy, these alternative activities will fill your time in productive ways and build knowledge and capability over time. If you’re too busy, rebalancing and jettisoning the things that don’t add value will help you to concentrate on the things that matter.

4 Comments

  1. @canion Great article. I really enjoyed your thoughts on it. I wrote about something similar recently: 🌀 Removing badges. I think identifying “I’m busy” as a cry for help is spot on. Thanks for sharing!

  2. @bennorris I feel like I’ve ripped you off! You’ve also written directly about busyness Great minds!

  3. @canion Oh, that was not my intention at all. I don’t feel ripped off in the slightest.

    I think when an idea is true of itself, many people will find their way to it.

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